After leading Luna Rossa to victory in the Prada Cup and a spot in the America's Cup match, it wasn't long before the narrative shifted on co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill as his crew look to dethrone the local heroes.
Still basking in his team's accomplishment, Spithill was given a glimpse of what to expect over the coming weeks when the first question posed to him by local media mentioned he was a man Kiwis loved to hate.
It's nothing new to Spithill, who has found himself cast as the villain whenever he goes against a New Zealand outfit, dating back to his remarkable comeback from 8-1 down to beat Team New Zealand and win the 2013 America's Cup.
"I've been in the game long enough and I've seen how that, and certainly Grant Dalton, operates. He does a good job of trying to steer a certain narrative," Spithill said of again being cast in that role.
"But as people have seen over history, over these past few years, once the facts start coming out then people start to change their minds; once they understand what really is going on."
While Spithill himself has had plenty of experience as a villain in the eyes of New Zealand sports fans, Luna Rossa have seemingly taken on that same role throughout the America's Cup campaign.
From off-water disagreements, to filing a complaint of non-compliance against a competitor, choosing not to reinstate the 15-minute delay trial rule for their series against American Magic and, finally, not agreeing to postpone the Prada Cup final when Auckland went into Covid-19 alert level 3; Luna Rossa have been dragged at seemingly every opportunity – despite the fact their reasoning was based on following the rules of the competition.
"I've learned there's plenty of guys like that on the shore that can talk a lot – that's fine – but at the end of the day the sailors, we go out, we get to compete against the best; there's massive respect between the two teams in Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, and I can't wait to compete against the best in the world," said Spithill.
"What an incredible opportunity to be able to take on Team New Zealand on home waters. It really is the equivalent of a rugby player getting to play a World Cup final at Eden Park against the All Blacks. It's such an amazing opportunity."
Spithill said the chance to get back on the water against Team New Zealand is one he has been waiting for ever since the Kiwi crew beat his Oracle Team USA outfit in Bermuda in 2017.
The American syndicate were trying to win their third-straight America's Cup, but were foiled to the tune of a 7-1 scoreline in the best-of-13 series. With Oracle Team USA declaring soon after that they would not be a part of the next America's Cup cycle, Spithill linked up with Luna Rossa.
When asked what it took to get him there, Spithill grinned and replied: "a phone call".
"Mate, I was really disappointed after Bermuda. We were going for three in a row. I was responsible and it was a big failure, but that's the great thing about sport – defeat's nothing but education and you really have to ask yourself 'OK, well what are you going to do about it now?'
"Defeat does that more so than winning; in defeat, I think you really learn a lot and, man, there's a lot of things I learned. In this campaign, I've been forced out of my comfort zone in a completely different culture, completely different group; there was a lot of learning.
"I'm really proud of the team and where we've come to, but the work is only just beginning; we're going to be going up against the very best, and we're clearly underdogs.
"I'm really thankful Patrizio [Bertelli] and Max [Sirena] gave me a shot, brought me into the Italian team and accepted me. They took me out of my comfort zone but, yeah, I can't wait for another shot at the Cup."
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride.
• Don't forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America's Cup Village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.